Whoever by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter excepted, to defame that person.
1. It may amount to defamation to impute anything to a deceased person, if the imputation would harm the reputation of that person if living, and is intended to be hurtful to the fellings of his family or other near relatives. 2. It may amount to defamation to make an imputation concerning a company or an association or collection of persons as such. 3. An imputation in the form of an alternative or expressed ironically, may amount to defamation. 4. No imputation is said to harm a person'sreputation, unless that imputation directly or indirectly, in the estimation of others, lowers the moral or intellectual character of that person, or lowers the character of that person in respect of his caste or of his calling, or lowers the credit of that person, or causes it to be believed that the body of that person is in a lothsome state, or in a state generally considered as disgraceful. 5. A Justice of the Peace or other officer holding an enquiry in open Court preliminary to a trial in a Court of Justice, is a Court within the meaning of the above section. 6. A performance may be submitted to the judgment of the public expressly or by acts on the part of the author which imply such submission to the judgment of the public.
(a) A says-"Z is an honest man; he never stole B's watch",intending to cause it to be believed that Z did steal B's watch. This is defamation, unless it fall within one of the exceptions. (b) A is asked who stole B's watch. A points to Z, intending to cause it to be believed that Z stole B's watch. This is defamation, unless it fall within one of the exceptions. (c) A draws a picture of Z running away with B's watch,intending it to be believed that Z stole B's watch. This is defamation, unless it fall within one of the exceptions. (d) It is not defamation in A to express in good faith any opinion whatever resepting Z's conduct in petitioning Government on a public question, in signing a requisition for a meeting on a public question, in presiding or attending at such meeting, in forming or joining any society which invites the public support, in voting or canvassing for a particular candidate for any situation in the efficient discharge of the duties of which the public is interested. (e) A says-"I think Z's evidence on that trial is so contradictory that he must be stupid or dishonest." A is within this exception if he says this in good faith, inasmuch as the opinion which he expresses respects Z's character as it appears in Z's conduct as a witness, and no farther. (f) But if A says-"I do not believe what Z asserted at that trial because I know him to be a man without veracity"; A is not within this exception, inasmuch as the opinion which expresses of Z's character, is an opinion not founded on Z's conduct as a witness. (g) A person who publishes a book, submits that book to the judgment of the public. (h) A person who makes a speech in public, submits that speech to the judgment of the public. (i) An actor or singer who appears on a public stage, submits his acting or singing to the judgment of the public. (j) A says of a book published by Z-"Z's book is foolish; Z must be a weak man. Z's book is indecent; Z must be a man of impure mind." A is within the exception, if he says this in good faith, inasmuch as the opinion which he expresses of Z respects Z's character only so far as it appears in Z's book, and no further. (k) But if A says-"I am not surprised that Z's book is foolish and indecent, for he is a weak man and a libertine." A is not within this exception, inasmuch as the opinion which he expresses of Z's character is an opinion not founded on Z's book.